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History, Culture

Eastern Aegean has always been one of the cradles of human civilization. Homo Erectus and Neanderthals (Homo Sapiens Neaderthalensis) were the first to settle on the coast and islands of this area so blessed with lush vegetation. By the end of the Neolithic Era (2000BC) eastern Mediterranean was more populated than other areas of the world. People living in this area had common features and were called “Mesogioi”. They were the indigenous population of the area.
W.Lamb excavating the area of Thermi discovered 5 settlements built the one on top of the other dating between 3200 and 2400 BC. They’re thought to be contemporaries with Troja I and II. Only the most recent settlement shows traces of fortification
The next millennium is considered a dark period for Lesvos because there are no archaeological findings or literary reports referring to that time. Excavations however are on a very early stage and nobody knows what future findings will reveal.

The next change on Lesvos comes with the appearance of the Mycenaeans in 1400BC. It is the time of the Homeric Trojan War. Although we have evidence of their arrival on Lesvos, there are no traces of permanent settlement on the island. According to the myth the first settlers were the Argives and their leader Xanthos followed by the Achaeans from Olenos with King Makaras. Despite the settlers’ influences, indigenous people managed to retain their culture and tradition.
Around 800 BC Aeolian Greeks arrived creating settlements both on the island and the coast of Asia Minor naming the area Aeolia. According to the myth the first Aeolian king of the island was Lesvos the son Lapithes, king of Thessali, and grandson of Aeolus. Lesvos married Mithymna, one of the 5 daughters of king Makaras who descended from the Achaeans. The island, previously called Aethiopi, Issa, Makaria, Mitonis, Pelasghia, Himerty, and Lasia, was now named after its new king Lesvos. The new King in order to please his father in law named the most important cities of the island after Makaras’ children, Mithymna, Mitylene, Issa, Andissa, Arisvi and Eresos. It was a peaceful settling and the island became known as Aeolian Land. The new dialect called Aeolian was a mixture of Thessaly and Ionian dialects.

Towards the end of the archaic period Lesvos became very powerful because of its navy. During the 6th century B.C she signed a treaty with the Persian King Croesus and for sometime was on the side of the Persians against the rest of Greece. Later on the Persian king Cyrus made them sign a treaty according to which they agreed to pay him taxes and send troops to his military campaigns. By the end of that century Persians assigned Exander from Cos as commander of Lesvos. In 499BC people of Lesvos revolted and killed him. In 494BC after the sea battle of Ladi where Persians won, Istiaeos disembarked on the island and destroyed many cities.
Persians were finally defeated at the Michali sea battle and Lesvos joined the first Athenian Alignment in 477BC from which it left in 428BC and aligned Lacedaemonians. A year later Athens conquered Lesvos, punished the people severely and distributed the land to Athenians. People of Lesvos tried to become independent in 412BC but without success.

In 334 BC Lesvos surrendered to Alexander the Great while in 264BC was ruled by the Ptolemies and in the beginning of the 2nd century AD was conquered by the Romans. Despite being part of the Byzantine Empire, Lesvos was attacked many times by the Slavs in 821AD, the Saracens in 881 and 1055 AD, the Venicians in 1128AD and the Catalan Pirates in the 13th century AD. Francs conquered Lesvos in 1204 and gave it to Baldwin the First. In 1224 it was conquered by the Byzantine Emperor Ioannis Vatatzis the Third and in 1260 was once more part of the Byzantine Empire.
This is the time the first Genoese came to Lesvos with an agreement that gave them special rights. In 1355 the island was given as dowry to Francisco Gatelouzo after his wedding to the Byzantine emperor’s sister Maria Palaeologos. The rule of Gatelouzi came to a stop gradually by the Turks who conquered Lesvos in 1462.
The island was liberated in 1912.